FlixChatter Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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For anyone who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, you probably heard of the Ninja Turtles even if you were not a fan. As a young boy back in those days, I was a huge fan of the turtles, my brother and I used to watch the morning cartoon show every day and I’ve watched the original film countless times on VHS. The first film released back in 1990 was a huge hit but unfortunately the two sequels that followed were quite awful and the franchise went on hiatus for a few years. The studio tried to restart the film franchise with a CG animation and released an animated movie simply called TMNT back in 2007. Even with voices by well known actors such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans and Patrick Stewart, the movie never caught on with the public. For a while many thought the franchise was dead, at one time John Woo was attached to produce and direct another film version but of course that never happened. The franchise ended up in the hands of Michael Bay and now we’re finally got to see another live action movie version.

With a comic book style introduction, this new movie takes us right into the chaos. Apparently Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his foot clan army have been terrorizing the citizens of NYC for a while and it seems to no one can stop or find him. Young reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is eager to become a real reporter and wants to find out who these foot clan are and what they’re planning to do next. One night she ran into the clan’s illegal activity and then witnessed the clan being took out by some mysterious figures. This scene was basically a rip-off of scene from Nolan’s Batman Begins when Batman was introduced, in fact the whole “plot” of this turtle movie was a rip-off of Nolan’s first Batman flick. Of course those mysterious figures turned out to be our heroes the Ninja Turtles. O’Neil wants to break the story about how someone is fighting back against Shredder and his army but without any proof her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) refuse to run the story. In fact she fired O’Neil because she’s becoming an annoyance. Now jobless and still wants to prove that the Turtles do exist, she decided to confide in her late father’s co-worker Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) and told him about the Turtles. Well wouldn’t you know it, Sacks happens to be the minion of Shredder and of course this leads to O’Neil being in danger and our heroes in the half shell came to her rescue.

I went into this movie with very low expectations since it’s directed by journeyman Jonathan Liebesman, the same man who directed some awful flicks including Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Battle: Los Angeles. Also, any movie with Michael Bay‘s name attached to it, I just don’t think it will be any good. Surprisingly I thought Liebesman did a pretty decent job with this movie, he remember to hold the cameras steady for most of the action scenes and staged one pretty awesome action sequence. A chase scene with our heroes being pursued by the foot clan army down a snowy mountain, seeing that sequence in 3D was quite great. Unfortunately though, the script by Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty was quite dreadful. As mentioned earlier the whole plot of this movie was a rip-off of Batman Begins but it’s also full of amateurish humor that only teenage boys will enjoy. One thing I really hated about the script was how they decided to change the origins of the turtles and their master Splinter. It’s so idiotic that I almost laughed out loud when that scene appeared.

Performances wise, you can’t really judge the actors who voiced the turtles so I’ll just focus on the human characters. As we all know Megan Fox can’t act and it’s quite painful watching her “act” in this movie, she’s asked to carry the movie for the first 40 minutes or so and it wasn’t fun watching her trying to act. William Fichtner and Tohoru Masamune didn’t have much to do except playing the straight one dimensional evil characters. Will Arnett showed up as the sidekick to April O’Neil and unfortunately his comedic role was just that, a comedic sidekick. I thought they might make him into Casey Jones by the end but I’m glad that never happened.

The movie wasn’t as bad I expected but it’s still not something adults will enjoy but I’m pretty sure most teenagers will have a great time with this one. I enjoyed some parts of the movie but in the end, it’s just another loud action/adventure movie from Mr. Bayhem.

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Have you seen this one? Well, what did you think?

Attention action directors: Shaky cam and fast editing needs to go away

This is my rant to action some action directors in Hollywood who thinks that by having shaking cam and fast editing style will make your action scenes look cool. Please stop doing that right now! Those kind of sequences made some of us the viewers dizzy and a lot of times distract us from enjoying your movies.

I tweeted Brad Bird the other day asking him what’s his take on these kind of new style of shooting actions scenes and here’s what he tweeted back:

In the hands of a talented filmmaker (like Greengrass) it can be great. But a lot of hacks use it because they can hide bad staging.”

I agree with what he said 100%, besides Paul Greengrass I don’t believe any other directors has done a good job of shooting those crazy hand held shaking cam action set pieces. It seems like after The Bourne Supremacy came out, there has been an onslaught of action films with unwatchable action sequences.

I wonder if these kind of style are now being taught in film schools or that the studio big bosses are demanding that an action film needs to be done in fast-editing and hand-held-camera style. To me, it seems some of the newer filmmakers tend to take these kind of style to heart, for example I recently saw Safe House which was directed by a new young director Daniel Espinosa. The action scenes he shot were overly-done with that fast editing and shaky cam that I couldn’t really tell what the heck was going on. Another director who seems to love to make people sick while watching his film is Jonathan Liebesman. I dare you to watch his masterpiece pile of poo, Battle: Los Angeles, without getting a little dizzy.

But the worst offender to me was Sly Stallone, he shot so many bad action sequences in The Expendables that I thought he was high on something.

Take a look at this car chase scene from that film, it was so badly-edited and shot that I got dizzy from watching it:

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When I saw it in the theater, I wanted to yell out: “Stallone pull the darn cameras back and let us see what the hell is going on!”  The scene was so tightly-shot and the hand held shaking cam style didn’t help at all. I love car chase scenes but I was begging for this particular one to be over fast. The sad part is, had Stallone and his cinematographer pull the cameras back a little and forgo this overused filmmaking style, that scene could’ve been very exciting to watch.

Another experienced action director who seems to now love this kind of style is Tony Scott. His last few films were pretty bad and the action scenes in those films were even worst. Take a look at the shootout scene from Domino:


If I didn’t know it was Scott who directed it, I would’ve thought it was some amateur filmmaker who tried too hard to make that scene look exiting. I couldn’t even finish watching that scene, I had to fast-forward it because I felt sick watching it. What’s so depressing was that Scott actually shot two similar scenes in his earlier films, True Romance and Enemy of the State, but in those films he did a great job of creating chaos during a shoot out scene in a tight space. And those films were very good while Domino was an awful movie.

Then there are some directors who’s now jumping into doing action films. For example, Marc Forster, who made Quantum of Solace and most of the action scenes in that film were badly shot. With the exception of the opening car chase and the foot chase/shootout during the opera, the rest of set pieces in that film were incomprehensible. Hopefully he’ll do a better job on his next big action film Word War Z. Now I haven’t seen the film yet but I read that in The Hunger Games, Gary Ross used too much of the hand held shaky style on a lot of scenes.

Another director I need to mention is Christopher Nolan (don’t hate me Nolan fanatics, I’m a huge fan of his too), the man still doesn’t know how to shoot a well-crafted action sequence. Apparently Nolan is the only big name director in Hollywood who doesn’t have a true second unit director working for him. He wants to shoot every scene for his films and so he’s there for all of the big action sequences. I love Batman Begins but I thought all of the action scenes in that film were poorly shot and edited. His style improved in The Dark Knight but some of the action scenes in Inception were so-so. Hopefully he’ll give us some great action set pieces in The Dark Knight Rises. Although after seeing the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises last winter, my gut feelings tells me Nolan might still needs to improve his skills as an action director.

I think these directors needs to study how to shoot great and exiting action scenes from the directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson and Sam Peckinpah. I thought Brad Bird did an amazing job of shooting the action scenes in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, instead of giving us the usual shaky hand-held and fast-editing look, he built the tension up and the results were some very cool and exciting set pieces.

One of my favorite action scenes is from the final shoot out of Extreme Prejudice (which Jack Deth reviewed here), here’s the clip:


The film was directed by Walter Hill and I think this scene should be shown in film school everywhere on how to shoot an action sequence properly. I love this scene and can watch it over and over again. It’s an homage to Peckinpah’s classic The Wild Bunch, which has, in my opinion, the best finale shootout in film history. Check it out here:


Well that’s my rant to Hollywood action directors about shooting bad action sequences. Do you agree that this kind of style needs to go away or do you find them to be quite exciting to watch?

Random Thoughts: Who should Christopher Nolan pick as SUPERMAN reboot director?

It’s hard to argue that Marvel’s been getting a leg up on DC with their movie adaptations, despite the comic company owning two of the biggest superhero franchises: Batman and Superman. British auteur Christopher Nolan could very well be regarded as a DC hero of sort the fact that he pretty much ‘rescued’ the Batman franchise from the pit that was Batman & Robin, practically the worst superhero movie of all time.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the son of Krypton and have the most respect for Nolan, so imagine my excitement when I first heard that Warner Bros asked him to be a mentor of sort on the The Man of Steel reboot. Then a month later came news that his frequent collaborator David Goyer came up with his dream vision of the über superhero. At the time, it seemed like the project is still so far away in our horizon, but perhaps it’s getting closer now that Nolan is currently shopping for a director to helm the franchise. The reason for the rush probably has a lot to do with the fact that DC will soon lose 50 percent of the  franchise’s copyright due to the notice filed by the heirs of the late Superman creator Jerry Siegel (per brandlaw.org).

Deadline reported Thursday that Superman producers Chris Nolan and [his wife and business partner] Emma Thomas are getting closer to resuscitating the Man of Steel… they have begun meeting with a short list of directors for the job of directing [the movie]…” The Superman reboot is slated to open Christmas 2010, whilst Batman 3 is scheduled to open right smack dab in the Summer Blockbuster month of July, 2012. Reportedly, Nolan and his team will have to select a director to helm the project and make their case in front of the studio before the project is to move forward.

So who made the list?

  • Tony Scott (Top Gun, Spy Game, Enemy of the State, Deja Vu)
  • Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In)
  • Jonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning)
  • Duncan Jones (Moon)
  • Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen)

My first reaction was to go with Snyder, as he’s quite a visionary director known for creating a visually-stunning film that combine highly-saturated color schemes with dynamic, high-octane action sequences. The former advertising commercials directors have won numerous Clio awards and he’s already got quite a few of buzz-worthy films under his belt despite his relatively short stint as a film director. The guy knows how to make killer trailers and has the ability to get a rousing response from audience at ComicCon. But after talking with one of my blog collaborators Ted S. (who’ve brought you the vision-to-film posts), I realize that perhaps all that razzle-dazzle visual feast isn’t enough to make up a truly worthy Superman film. So below is Ted’s rationale as who should get the job:

Out of all the directors from that list, I’d vote for Duncan Jones. Why? Well because I believe his style of filmmaking is very similar to Nolan’s. Just check out his first feature length Moon, it was very low budget film but yet with his direction and visual style, the film looked like it cost $30mil instead of $5mil to make. Also, the film dealt with identity and loneliness, isn’t that what Superman storyline has been about? Since we don’t know what the plot of the new Superman film is about, maybe Jones can bring us a new version of Superman like we’ve never seen before, just like what Nolan did when he introduced us to his version of Batman. Jones can probably tackle the issue of being the only super human in the world and how he feels being so isolated and yet people relies on him to save them. Whoever they choose to play the new Man of Steel, I truly believe Jones can bring out a great performance out of that actor. Sam Rockwell was pretty great in Moon.

As for the other directors, I’m not familiar with Liebesman’s or Reeves’ work. Reeves directed Cloverfield a couple of years ago, I refuse to watch that movie because I don’t care for that kind of storytelling. Liebesman’s resume is not too impressive either, although his upcoming Battle: Los Angeles looks pretty interesting.

I know that many will vote for Zack Snyder but I just don’t think he’s a good story teller; he’s great at making things blow up and can direct big action sequences. To me Snyder is more of a YES MAN type of director, you give him a script and he’ll follow it page for page, i.e. 300 and Watchmen.

Lastly, we have Tony Scott, I believe he’s run out of creative ideas when it comes to his directing style. If you saw the last couple of his films, you’ll notice that he had repeated his style from his earlier work. If you don’t believe me, watch the shootout scene near the end of Déjà Vu and then watch a shootout scene from his earlier film, The Last Boy Scout. Or watch Enemy of State then Domino, you’ll see the similarities in those films.

For this new reboot of Superman, I believe they should go with a director who not only can create great visual effects but one who can bring out the character of Clark Kent/Superman. Again, my vote goes to Duncan Jones, if you haven’t seen Moon yet, please give a rent, you won’t be disappointed.

Well, after reading his astute assessment, I think Ted has a really valid point about choosing Duncan Jones, and I’m even more curious to watch Moon now. Now your turn, readers. Who would you pick to helm the next Superman reboot?